Didn’t they tell us don’t rush into things?
Didn’t you flash your green eyes at me?
Didn’t you calm my fears with a Cheshire cat smile?
Didn’t it all seem new and exciting?
I felt your arms twisting around me
It’s all fun and games ’til somebody loses their mind.
-Taylor Swift, Wonderland
It’s been months since I’ve able to write. December came at me like a lock-on missile (the brother’s 21st, Christmas, NYE, mini-getaway on the South Coast; all one week after another) and once “holiday-mode” kicked in so did my “writer’s block”. The months that followed were a whirlwind of big events, excessive work, and a mental breakdown (for real). Needless to say I’ve been uninspired to write because I just didn’t have the energy and/or brain capacity.
But something happened recently that re-ignited my need to write. Something I subconsciously knew was coming but never really expected. Something I’ve been thinking about since the day I heard the news and have had the urge to spit word-vomit ever since.
Tinman got engaged.
It’s hard for me to write about Tinman in a single blog chapter. I could write an entire book on this man; my beautiful disaster. It’s difficult to sum up our “situation” in a place of word-count restrictions (lest you lose interest) and have you walk away with the extent of my current disposition.
The short version is that for five years he was my best friend, my confidant, my saviour, my logic; my person. Don’t be confused, we were not lovers. We were best friends. We were essentially the same person. There would be days I’d wake up and only wish to communicate using Shakespearean language and he would always reply back the same way. There were days where I’d only write texts in poetry and limmericks and he’d come back with a poem or limmerick of his own. We shared stories and vented about our current love interests. He was in my “party-squad” and was the usual occupant of my couch on a Saturday night after hours of boozing and dancing. He got me. He knew me.
Somewhere in the middle of that five years we had a gap. I was a prisoner in the world of The Dementor, and Tinman was out discovering who he was and thus we didn’t see each other for a while. By the time we came back together in the aftermath of the biggest mistake of my life, Tinman was not the same person I once knew. Don’t get me wrong, he was still the funny, ridiculous, poetry-writing, answering-drunken-calls-from-me-at-three-in-the-morning, beautiful man I’d always known. But something in him had changed. He was different now. He was callous; he was dark.
But that was insignificant. On the outside he was still Tinman. It was his view on women and life that had changed. We spent many days lying in the sun in parks or at the beach, or sitting on my back porch talking about his fear of commitment and how he doesn’t ever want to be “stuck” in one place – freedom was his credo. He was a modern-day hippie. Suddenly he liked drugs and disappearing in the middle of the night when we were out with a larger group (one time it was to take a nap in Hyde Park at 2:00 am while the rest of us searched the club, wondering where the fuck he was). Suddenly he was all about stringless sex with any woman he could swoon – and he was more than capable of swooning. I would always laugh and tell him he was crazy while he gave up dirty details of his most recent encounters – all the while envious of his freedom to do such things. I wasn’t quite there yet. I was still recovering from my dance with the devil and was quite happy to be Tinman’s captive audience and live vicariously through his stories. Not once did I ever dream that I may become one of those women in his little black book. The thought never crossed my mind. Because before I had my current dating rules (see previous chapters), I had only one; don’t fuck your friends.
I’ve always believed that nothing good can come from having sex with your friends. I’d never put it into practise, but it seemed like a pretty logical theory. Once you see someone naked everything changes. And yet, five years into knowing Tinman, I found myself breaking my own rule…
He earned his name early in our friendship – back when we’d first met he told me how he’d just broken up with his (then) girlfriend. Via text. On her birthday. I was incredulous. “YOU’RE A MONSTER!”, I’d yelled at him through hysterical laughter. “Who does that?! You have no heart! You’re like the goddamn TINMAN from The Wizard of Oz; NO HEART!”. Obviously we were immediate friends and the aforementioned relationship was built. And because I was the dreamer who always thought she could change the world, and for other reasons I have never come to know, he took to calling me Dorothy.
Not long after our reunion, we’d planned a big road-trip with some of our friends; along the vast North Coast of Australia. On Christmas Eve we drove up to Port Macquarie where Henri (Tinman’s cousin) and I danced in a sun-shower; the day after we were all in Byron Bay getting high by day and drunk by night; we continued up to Hervey Bay where I endured the worst sunburn of my life; and then back down to Surfer’s Paradise for NYE. We even stopped in at Coffs Harbour on our way home where we all got high and contemplated mortality and philosophy (remember Henri? What colour is blue?). It was a trip I won’t ever forget. Not only had Tinman and I forged a new level of friendship, but I discovered a kindred spirit in Henri. We bonded in ways you couldn’t imagine – mostly over our love of alcohol and dancing – but in ways that hold us together to this day.
One night in Byron Bay, we went pub crawling. We all spent the afternoon getting high (thanks Berta!) whilst playing Uno and Scrabble (it rained) before we headed out to see what Byron had to offer us. Needless to say, by the time we’d all gone out, we were well and truly fucked. This was possibly the best night of our trip. I remember dancing on a small stage to Titanium; hands in the air, hair stuck to the sweat dripping down my face; and the feeling of intense freedom. This is exactly where I was supposed to be.
Later that night (early the next morning), we managed to find our way back to our cabin in the rainforest that backed onto a beach. Four of us sat outside smoking cigarettes and continuing the drinking, but one by one everyone went to sleep. Eventually, all that was left was Tinman and me. At this point Pink Floyd’s Money was playing softly across the balcony and we sat in silence smoking a joint and listening to the sounds of nature over the music. It was surreal.
Before I knew it, Tinman was at my side and he was kissing me. Fucked up as I was, I knew this was a bad idea. I remember pushing him away saying, “This isn’t right… Friends don’t kiss.”. He said, “Well, maybe tonight we’re not friends.” and he kissed me again. I kissed him back for a while… But after a few minutes my mind had taken over. I pushed him away again and said “No, Tinman. This is a BAD idea.” and I went to bed. Obviously, I couldn’t sleep that night. His actions played over and over in my mind. He KISSED me. Friends don’t kiss! For as long as I can remember I’ve always just been ‘one of the boys’. It never even crossed my mind that he might want more than that. And I felt terrible. I felt like I’d led him on, like I must have done something to make him think I wanted that from him. I mean, why else would he have kissed me, right?
The next day, it was Berta’s turn to drive. We were doing the first leg from Byron up to Hervey Bay and I was in the front-passenger seat thinking (always thinking) about what I was going to do now. Is it going to be awkward? Does he hate me for rejecting him? How will we be able to get past the kiss? WHAT HAPPENS NOW? And then, from the backseat of the Tarago we’d borrowed for the trip, Tinman sent me a photo via text of a teddy-bear I’d brought along; face down on his crotch.
Right. So we’re ok.
To cut an even longer story short, it eventually happened. On this roadtrip, we found ourselves alone together on many drunken occasions and he won me over. It was like a fucking movie. We were swept up in the hype and freedom of our holiday – this wasn’t reality. There were no rules, no “bedtime”, no work tomorrow. For ten days, we were all free. And more than anything, I was deeply surprised by how I could have sexual encounters with this man and not feel a single shred of emotion about it. In my brain, this was a “summer fling” and once the holiday was over, so too would be our tryst. Oh, how wrong I was.
The minute we came home the magic disappeared. I returned to my empty reality where work was my husband and my housemate at the time had all-but destroyed my house in my absence. The holiday blues hit me like a tonne of bricks.
Much to my surprise, Tinman wanted to continue our secret affair. See, at this point there had been speculation within the squad, but no one actually knew for sure whether or not we were ‘doin’ it’. And that was kind of the fun of it. We really enjoyed the secrecy and excitement that when no one was looking we could steal a kiss, or grope each other in the back of the cab without anyone noticing. It was fun. And I was under no disillusions. I knew how these things worked. I mean, Tinman was the guy who had stringless sex – I knew we weren’t exclusive, I knew he was probably seeing other people, and I was shocked at how nonchalant I was about it all. I knew my place in his world (or so I thought) and I was completely unemotional. I finally understood what stringless sex was. And boy, was it exciting…
And so we went on for a few of months, hanging out together, sleeping together, still friends, it wasn’t awkward; we were just us.
Then one day, whilst at the beach with Henri and my friend Rachel, Tinman leaned over to me and said “We should go to Greece.”. Just like that. Out of nowhere. Knowing FULL-WELL that Greece was my dream location. Only a few years prior I was contemplating moving there – setting up a life of living in a concrete shack and working in a cafe or bar on one of the islands. He knew that Greece was the one place in the world where I wanted to experience real freedom. I said, “Is that a joke?”. He looked me plain in the face and said “No, we should go to Greece. You’ve always wanted to go!”. By this time, even Henri was excited. We all started chattering about going to Greece. I was all-but begging Henri, “Come on! It’ll be so much fun!”. We took it to the squad but in the end, the only people who really wanted to go were Tinman and me. So, three months in advance, we booked the trip. We walked into Flight Centre, told the agent our plans, and laid down our deposit. I was over the moon. “WE’RE FUCKING GOING TO GREECE!”, I screamed in his face as we left the travel agent. I felt dizzy – high, even. I couldn’t believe we were going to see my dream come true and we were doing it together. In less than three months, we’d be partying our way across the Greek Islands and it just so happened that we were going to land in Mykonos on my birthday. What a world.
It was around this time I started to see small changes in Tinman. He was over more frequently, he cared less about the squad finding out about our situation (one night he kissed me in front of Henri, their cousin Mavis, and other friends whilst in a club). Suddenly everyone knew we were ‘an item’. And that started to scare me – which was new. I didn’t realise until then that I wasn’t sure how I felt about any of this. I mean, up until this point, everything was just about the fun and the sex. There was no emotion. We didn’t ‘like’ each other. We didn’t care for each other that way… We were friends who often had sex. At least, that’s what I thought..
One Sunday morning after a big night out where he (and a few others) had stayed at my house, I woke up and realised the sun was shining – it was a beach day. I woke Tinman by viciously slapping his bare abdomen and screaming “WAKE UP!”. He spat out some profanity as I said “It’s a fucking beach day, cunt! GET UP!”. Immediately enthused he practically jumped up into a sitting position and yelled “I fucking love you!”. For a split second, my entire world stopped moving. The three seconds that passed between that sentence and what I did next felt like years. Did he just fucking say that? I thought to myself. The fuck do I do now..? I went into panic mode and just pretended like I didn’t hear him. I opened the curtains while I listened to him stammer behind me “I mean… I was talking about the day. I love the sun. It’s a great day for the beach.”. I answered with “What?” as if I’d heard absolutely nothing…
My mind was reeling. Was that meant for me? Is he…attached…? What the fuck is going on?? This isn’t him! He doesn’t LOVE people. He has sex with them. He doesn’t NEED people. He needs to be free. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!
A week later I was in a bar in the city with a group of colleagues. It was a month before we were set to fly to Greece and Tinman was still….off. Small things were happening that I couldn’t wrap my brain around. He’d send witty poems via text that seemed to have an underlying message of sentiment. He’d send me a link to a song I just “had to listen to” and the song would be about love or some kind of situation similar to what we were in (Until We Bleed and Little Bit, for example). All the while I thought I was overthinking it. This is me being stupid. He’s just found some really cool songs and knows I love music so he’s sharing them with me. This is not some kind of hidden message or proclamation of love. This is just our friendship and him acknowledging art that I appreciate. Yet he was furious when I shared one of the songs on Facebook and tagged a girlfriend (she’d fallen in love with it)… “I sent you that song”, he’d said, “That’s OUR song.”. I was so confused.
ANYWAY! I’m in this bar a month prior to leaving for Greece with a bunch of work colleagues celebrating Friday. I’d texted Tinman and told him where I was should he want to join us. “Bring your friends!”, I’d said. He came alone and sat with my group of seven or eight people. The minute he walked in I could see something was wrong. He was quiet, still, dark. I asked if he was ok, he just said yes, ordered his drink, and sat down. One of the girls at the table started drilling him about our situation (she knew, obviously) and he was getting more and more uncomfortable and withdrawn. I left her with him when she started asking questions like “But you love her, right? I mean, I just think it’s so romantic!”. I went off and bumped into a colleague who had recently left our team – we called him Prince Harry. He is a dead-ringer for the guy. And there was a longstanding joke in our team about me being Mrs Robinson because I would follow that kid around like a puppy (he’s super hot!) and he seemed to always want to hang out with me at social occasions. So we were chatting and dancing together while Tinman was being punished by every female at our table. Eventually I went to rescue him. “Come on. Let’s get you a drink.”.
At the bar I introduced him to some hot chick standing near us. I complimented her shoes and introduced Tinman (ultimate wingman, ohhhh yeah!). He stared at me for a while as this was happening and then shrugged, skulled his drink, and turned to talk to his new friend and potential “score” for the night. I mean, that’s what we did right? We weren’t exclusive. We weren’t attached. We were friends that had sex who were still wingmen for each other. That’s what I’d understood. I thought I was just doing my job; being a good friend.
While he chatted, I went back to Prince Harry and we danced more, drank more, and laughed at nothing in particular. During all this, the the boys I work with kept loading me up with shots and other poisons. I was absolutely shattered (as per). Eventually, Prince Harry and I wandered back to the table where the rest of the girls were seated (most of whom had left). Harry sat down just as Tinman came over (alone) and sat down across from him. I stood between them at the head of the table and watched as they made small talk and general banter. In my drunk-hazed memory there was some conversation happening that made me uncomfortable. I can only remember one particular part of that conversation and it was enough to sober me up immediately. I can’t tell you if my memory loss is on account of the booze or the severity of what followed Tinman joining us, all I know is that somehow the two were discussing who would be taking me home that night. That’s when I heard the Tinman spit out the words “I don’t fucking want her, she’s allllll yours mate!”, whilst staring me dead in the face. Prince Harry’s giggling retort of “Well, I don’t want her either!” was a dull drone over the sound of the whole room suddenly moving in slow motion as I stared at this man who was supposed to be my friend. I mean, we’re not TOGETHER but that doesn’t mean you get to treat me like a fucking piece of shit.
In an instant I was furious, I was sad, I was confused. What had I done? Why is he being like this? Why would he say something so fucking hurtful? I politely excused myself and went outside for a cigarette where I found the boys and tried to blink back tears. We sat outside for a while smoking and talking (well, I was smoking; they were talking) as I stared into nothingness wondering if I had imagined what just took place. I was devastated and ropable all at the same time.
Eventually Tinman staggered outside. It was clear he’d had a few more shots before joining us. He came out and tried to kiss me. I was like “Get. Fucked.” and pushed him away. He laughed drunkenly and said, “Come on, let’s go home.”.
The next hour was a blur. We’d somehow ended up at Maccas with the boys – me half eating chips, half craving more cigarettes as a very, very drunk Jerome (one of the boys) started throwing his chips at other patrons; people we didn’t know. All the while, Tinman just sat across the table staring at me through bleary eyes. Tension started in the restaurant and that’s when I decided to call it a night. “Well, I shan’t be sitting here when Jerome starts a brawl, gents; I’m out”, I said as I stood up and headed for the door. They yelled out their drunken goodbyes and I stepped onto the sidewalk suddenly aware that Tinman was with me.
Accepting the fact I’d have to share a car with this man, I hailed a cab. We sat at opposite ends of the backseat, I gave instructions to the driver and Tinman promptly passed out. The next 40 minutes on the road were the longest of my life. I didn’t want to be anywhere near this arsehole who was snoring next to me, one of his legs over both of mine. We pulled up at his house and I all-but pushed him out of the car. Dazed and confused in drunkenness, Tinman said “Why are we at MY house?”. I said, “Because YOU are going home.”. He shrugged, groped around his jeans looking for his wallet and I just slammed the car door shut and told the driver to keep going.
The next day (having woken up ON my bed in just my underwear with one shoe on and McDonalds chips in my hair), he texted me about coming over that night. I simply said “No, I’m going out with Henri.”. Which I was. Obviously I’d told Henri the whole story and we were both mortified by what had happened the night before. “You’re coming out tonight.” Henri had said, “No Tinman, just you, me and my friends.”. I whined about wanting to stay home and wallow but, in true Henri style, this was not an option. So we went out and got shitfaced (he was wrapped around a toilet bowl within the first two hours of our evening) while Tinman texted me about being childish. Accusing me of playing games and stating that I was only going out with Henri to annoy him. Obviously I ignored him.
The following night, when I was more level-headed, Tinman texted again and just said “Sorry”. I replied, “You don’t even know what you’re apologising for.”. He said “You’re mad because I got drunk and passed out in the cab so you didn’t want me to come home with you. I’m sorry.”. This enraged me. Is he JOKING? Does he actually NOT remember what happened? So in a giant essay of a text, I told him what he had done that Friday night. He was baffled and accused me of lying. “I’d NEVER say something like that to you. NEVER.”, he replied. We went back and forth over text and the whole time he kept denying the conversation ever took place. I don’t remember how we closed off that conversation but I do remember not wanting to see or hear from him ever again. And yet, we had Greece in a matter of weeks…
Those weeks were spent at work, out with Henri, dealing with questions from Henri AND Mavis about how we’re going to “fix” this before Greece. And I couldn’t answer. We’d just laid out four thousand un-refundable dollars for a three week getaway at my dream destination.. The fuck was I going to do? And then, two weeks before we were set to leave, I received an envelope via internal mail. This wasn’t uncommon in my line of work (I was an Events Manager at the time), I got internal mail daily. When I picked the envelope up, my heart stood still and my lungs stopped working. I knew that handwriting – for five years I’d known that hand-writing. With shaking hands and a deep breath, I opened the envelope to find two A4 sheets of paper neatly folded with words that had been typed on them. It was a confession. Of what exactly was yet to be determined.
He’d written it in true, poetic Tinman style; riddled with puzzles and allusions with no definition. All I could really see (during that first reading) is that he was confessing he had feelings; he was confessing he didn’t know what to do with those feelings; he was confessing that he was very confused. He talked about wanting me but not wanting to be tied down because what if he wanted to just walk away and live in France or Mexico or anywhere else in the world with nothing but the clothes he was wearing? He didn’t want to be committed to anything that would hold him back. He mentioned how hard it was for him to see me with other men, laughing, flirting; being me. He spoke of wanting a life with me that he could not comprehend for himself. It took me days to unravel his script and truly understand it. And by then, I was ready to reply.
I basically said he was a shit person that particular night but I loved him because he was my friend. I confessed that I’d never even considered any of what he’d put in his letter because I KNEW him and I KNEW that’s not what he wanted – especially from me (well, that’s how I felt). I told him that knowing this now changes everything. Can I open up emotionally and embark on this adventure with him? COULD we try to build a life together? None of these things had ever even crossed my mind; I had no idea that’s what he’d wanted. Knowing all of this now was a game changer.
Once I sent my reply via internal mail, I spent the next two days pondering what a life with Tinman would be like. Is it possible? God knows I’ve dreamt of walking away from reality and starting a new life myself – several times. I’m prepared for that. We could do it TOGETHER. For the first time since we’d started this ridiculous affair (Jesus, for the first time since we MET!), I opened myself up to new possibilities of potential love. REAL, unadulterated, raw love. And I was terrified. This could end badly. By the sound of his letter he wants it but won’t allow himself to go through with it. This won’t end well.. I thought to myself, perhaps it’s best we just leave it be.
His next reply consisted of six words:
I just want my friend back.
And so I texted him and we made amends. He came over that night so we could make amends for real and TALK. I told him in advance that there would be no sex. We need to talk about all this shit and work out what the fuck we’re doing before we go to Greece (IN A FUCKING WEEK). He agreed and came over.
He walked in, hugged me, we apologised, played X-Box for a while as we laughed about the internal mail situation (such a Tinman thing to do; such a dark romantic) and we spent the whole night talking about nothing in particular. We spoke about our excitement for Greece, we laughed about how drunk Henri was that night he was wrapped around the toilet bowl, we even went through old short poems we’d sent each other and laughed at how ridiculous we were.
In the early hours of the morning I announced I needed to sleep. He asked if he could stay over. I reminded him there would be NO SEX and he said he was fine with that. He just wanted to “hang out”. So we laid in my bed talking until we fell asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling relieved and excited about what may come next. Would we be embarking on this weird and scary new journey together? Greece is a great way to start! Would we go back to just being friends that have sex occasionally, because I was fine with that too. Would we just go back to being platonic friends? If that’s what he wants, sure. All I knew was he had unloaded his feelings on me and I was finally ready to listen. I was open and ready for whatever came next. At least that’s what I told myself.
I rolled over and smiled at him as he sat up in the bed fiddling with the duvet cover. Something was on his mind. I knew all six of his smiles and all three of his laughs; I knew every line on his face and how they moved when he spoke. In that moment I realised I’d been in love with this idiot for some time now. Which is exactly why I was growing nervous when I saw his expression that morning. Whatever was on his mind was not good news.
“I’m a pig”, he said without looking at me.
“No you’re not.”, I replied as I sat up to be eye level with him. “An arsehole maybe. But not a pig.”
“No, I’m a pig.”
“Okay,” I sighed, “What’s happening? Talk to me.”
He fiddled some more and started to talk about the last few weeks and how he’s been going out and having fun and doing what he does. I assumed he was talking generally, trying to tell me he had slept with other people in my absence (which I did not care about – we still had not “defined” our situation). He talked in circles for what felt like forever. It wasn’t until he said “I came by here last night expecting us to make up with no sex and just be us again. But then I saw you and I realised sex would be the best way to end things. We could end on a high. When it didn’t happen I just felt like a pig.”.
It was then that I realised he wasn’t trying to tell me that he’d slept with someone. He was trying to tell me he’d met someone he wants to do this with; ‘this’ being ‘the relationship thing’. It was also in that moment that I felt the air fizzle out of my lungs and my heart start to melt over the top of my internal organs. I was gutted. Confused. Angry. I wanted to scream “Are you fucking kidding me?! After ALL this, THIS is what you are telling me??”. Instead I let out a small “Oh.” and shook myself off and continued with a smile and said “Well, that’s great! I’m so happy for you!”.
A few days later I was forced to meet her. Thankfully, by this time (remember we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in weeks) I was chatting to/flirting with The Bodybuilder. I had that to fall back on (another classic “Melanie is a cunt” moment). But I met her. I stood up straight with a big smile on my face and hugged the new love of my best friend’s life while the blood in my veins turned ice cold. She was beautiful. Thin. Tall’ish. Simple. She’s exactly the person I would have expected him to end up with prior to all this shit. And she’s fucking lovely – so that helped *rolls eyes*. Needless to say I got absolutely arseholed that night and went home to cry myself to sleep. One week later, we flew to Greece.
By this time, The Bodybuilder and I had started our…situation. Dazed and miffed by my situation with Tinman, I was blinded by heartache and the intense need to prove I was happy without him and happy FOR him. So The Bodybuilder and I began dating within days of me leaving for Greece. When Tinman found out, he was mildly crude about pieces I’d share. Silly rabbit, I am, to think we could go back to being friends after an ordeal like that. During our travels in Greece, Tinman often spoke of The Bodybuilder and how he’s “not right for me”. Deep down I knew it was true but I just couldn’t be the person he didn’t want and has no one else to love her. So I put up with his remarks and comments around “Do you really think this man will tolerate a woman with a past that involves depression?”, and “It won’t last”, or “You’ll get bored with him”.
For three weeks we partied, shared a bed with a metre’s gap (could have been a mile) between us, tried to be the friends used to be but it just wasn’t working. The damage had been done. There was no going back. On our way to Oz, we fell down a rabbit-hole and ended up in Wonderland. Three weeks later we returned to Sydney. He dropped me off at my house and we hugged each other goodbye. It was the last time we ever spoke – that was seven years ago.
To this day, I have never spoken about how deeply my whole experience with Tinman actually hurt me. To Henri and Mavis and anyone who knew us, I was fine; I was happy for him. In the shadows of my solitude I was devastated.
I don’t often allow myself to think of him; the anger is too much. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve thought of him in the last few years. But after the announcement… I just want to ask him how he is. If he’s read any good books lately. Whether he still longs to disappear. If he ever thinks of me… But my pride would never allow for such a thing. Ultimately it’s better that I do not know if he ever speaks my name aloud just to remember what it sounds like. I shouldn’t hear if he thinks of me each time he sees the number seven. I don’t need to know if he’s simply erased me from his world.
But I do know that I think of him. On days like today when his name is all but whispered in the wind. And in times of Shakespeare and the hills of Pathos; whenever I remember The Wizard of Oz. The sad fact is I am and will forever remain Dorothy the dreamer; only barely whole without her heartless Tinman.
I only hope he’s happy in the life he has chosen, for it is not the life he spoke of. And I am not the girl he left behind.
I fear the day our paths cross again, for I will remember him. But my face will only be a shadow of a distant memory. She is all he sees now. And I wish them well.